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2015


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Methods of forming dry adhesive structures

Sitti, M., Murphy, M., Aksak, B.

September 2015, US Patent 9,120,953 (patent)

Abstract
Methods of forming dry adhesives including a method of making a dry adhesive including applying a liquid polymer to the second end of the stem, molding the liquid polymer on the stem in a mold, wherein the mold includes a recess having a cross-sectional area that is less than a cross-sectional area of the second end of the stem, curing the liquid polymer in the mold to form a tip at the second end of the stem, wherein the tip includes a second layer stem; corresponding to the recess in the mold, and removing the tip from the mold after the liquid polymer cures.

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[BibTex]

2015


[BibTex]


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Experimental investigation of optimal adhesion of mushroomlike elastomer microfibrillar adhesives

Marvi, H., Song, S., Sitti, M.

Langmuir, 31(37):10119-10124, American Chemical Society, August 2015 (article)

Abstract
Optimal fiber designs for the maximal pull-off force have been indispensable for increasing the attachment performance of recently introduced gecko-inspired reversible micro/nanofibrillar adhesives. There are several theoretical studies on such optimal designs; however, due to the lack of three-dimensional (3D) fabrication techniques that can fabricate such optimal designs in 3D, there have not been many experimental investigations on this challenge. In this study, we benefitted from recent advances in two-photon lithography techniques to fabricate mushroomlike polyurethane elastomer fibers with different aspect ratios of tip to stalk diameter (β) and tip wedge angles (θ) to investigate the effect of these two parameters on the pull-off force. We found similar trends to those predicted theoretically. We found that β has an impact on the slope of the force-displacement curve while both β and θ play a role in the stress distribution and crack propagation. We found that these effects are coupled and the optimal set of parameters also depends on the fiber material. This is the first experimental verification of such optimal designs proposed for mushroomlike microfibers. This experimental approach could be used to evaluate a wide range of complex microstructured adhesive designs suggested in the literature and optimize them.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Micro-fiber arrays with tip coating and transfer method for preparing same

Sitti, M., Washburn, N. R., Glass, P. S., Chung, H.

July 2015, US Patent 9,079,215 (patent)

Abstract
Present invention describes a patterned and coated micro- and nano-scale fibers elastomeric material for enhanced adhesion in wet or dry environments. A multi-step fabrication process including optical lithography, micromolding, polymer synthesis, dipping, stamping, and photopolymerization is described to produce uniform arrays of micron-scale fibers with mushroom-shaped tips coated with a thin layer of an intrinsically adhesive synthetic polymer, such as lightly crosslinked p(DMA-co-MEA).

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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pH-taxis of biohybrid microsystems

Zhuang, J., Carlsen, R. W., Sitti, M.

Scientific reports, 5, Nature Publishing Group, June 2015 (article)

Abstract
The last decade has seen an increasing number of studies developing bacteria and other cell-integrated biohybrid microsystems. However, the highly stochastic motion of these microsystems severely limits their potential use. Here, we present a method that exploits the pH sensing of flagellated bacteria to realize robust drift control of multi-bacteria propelled microrobots. Under three specifically configured pH gradients, we demonstrate that the microrobots exhibit both unidirectional and bidirectional pH-tactic behaviors, which are also observed in free-swimming bacteria. From trajectory analysis, we find that the swimming direction and speed biases are two major factors that contribute to their tactic drift motion. The motion analysis of microrobots also sheds light on the propulsion dynamics of the flagellated bacteria as bioactuators. It is expected that similar driving mechanisms are shared among pH-taxis, chemotaxis, and thermotaxis. By identifying the mechanism that drives the tactic behavior of bacteria-propelled microsystems, this study opens up an avenue towards improving the control of biohybrid microsystems. Furthermore, assuming that it is possible to tune the preferred pH of bioactuators by genetic engineering, these biohybrid microsystems could potentially be applied to sense the pH gradient induced by cancerous cells in stagnant fluids inside human body and realize targeted drug delivery.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Structural optimization for flexure-based parallel mechanisms–Towards achieving optimal dynamic and stiffness properties

Lum, G. Z., Teo, T. J., Yeo, S. H., Yang, G., Sitti, M.

Precision Engineering, 42, pages: 195-207, Elsevier, May 2015 (article)

Abstract
Flexure-based parallel mechanisms (FPMs) are a type of compliant mechanisms that consist of a rigid end-effector that is articulated by several parallel, flexible limbs (a.k.a. sub-chains). Existing design methods can enhance the FPMs’ dynamic and stiffness properties by conducting a size optimization on their sub-chains. A similar optimization process, however, was not performed for their sub-chains’ topology, and this may severely limit the benefits of a size optimization. Thus, this paper proposes to use a structural optimization approach to synthesize and optimize the topology, shape and size of the FPMs’ sub-chains. The benefits of this approach are demonstrated via the design and development of a planar X − Y − θz FPM. A prototype of this FPM was evaluated experimentally to have a large workspace of 1.2 mm × 1.2 mm × 6°, a fundamental natural frequency of 102 Hz, and stiffness ratios that are greater than 120. The achieved properties show significant improvement over existing 3-degrees-of-freedom compliant mechanisms that can deflect more than 0.5 mm and 0.5°. These compliant mechanisms typically have stiffness ratios that are less than 60 and a fundamental natural frequency that is less than 45 Hz.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Controlled surface topography regulates collective 3D migration by epithelial–mesenchymal composite embryonic tissues

Song, J., Shawky, J. H., Kim, Y., Hazar, M., LeDuc, P. R., Sitti, M., Davidson, L. A.

Biomaterials, 58, pages: 1-9, Elsevier, April 2015 (article)

Abstract
Cells in tissues encounter a range of physical cues as they migrate. Probing single cell and collective migratory responses to physically defined three-dimensional (3D) microenvironments and the factors that modulate those responses are critical to understanding how tissue migration is regulated during development, regeneration, and cancer. One key physical factor that regulates cell migration is topography. Most studies on surface topography and cell mechanics have been carried out with single migratory cells, yet little is known about the spreading and motility response of 3D complex multi-cellular tissues to topographical cues. Here, we examine the response to complex topographical cues of microsurgically isolated tissue explants composed of epithelial and mesenchymal cell layers from naturally 3D organized embryos of the aquatic frog Xenopus laevis. We control topography using fabricated micropost arrays (MPAs) and investigate the collective 3D migration of these multi-cellular systems in these MPAs. We find that the topography regulates both collective and individual cell migration and that dense MPAs reduce but do not eliminate tissue spreading. By modulating cell size through the cell cycle inhibitor Mitomycin C or the spacing of the MPAs we uncover how 3D topographical cues disrupt collective cell migration. We find surface topography can direct both single cell motility and tissue spreading, altering tissue-scale processes that enable efficient conversion of single cell motility into collective movement.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Transfer Printing of Metallic Microstructures on Adhesion-Promoting Hydrogel Substrates

Wu, H., Sariola, V., Zhu, C., Zhao, J., Sitti, M., Bettinger, C. J.

Advanced Materials, 27(22):3398-3404, April 2015 (article)

Abstract
Fabrication schemes that integrate inorganic microstructures with hydrogel substrates are essential for advancing flexible electronics. A transfer printing process that is made possible through the design and synthesis of adhesion-promoting hydrogels as target substrates is reported. This fabrication technique may advance ultracompliant electronics by melding microfabricated structures with swollen hydrogel substrates.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Dry adhesives and methods for making dry adhesives

Sitti, M., Murphy, M., Aksak, B.

March 2015, US Patent App. 14/625,162 (patent)

Abstract
Dry adhesives and methods for forming dry adhesives. A method of forming a dry adhesive structure on a substrate, comprises: forming a template backing layer of energy sensitive material on the substrate; forming a template layer of energy sensitive material on the template backing layer; exposing the template layer to a predetermined pattern of energy; removing a portion of the template layer related to the predetermined pattern of energy, and leaving a template structure formed from energy sensitive material and connected to the substrate via the template backing layer.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Biomedical applications of untethered mobile milli/microrobots

Sitti, M., Ceylan, H., Hu, W., Giltinan, J., Turan, M., Yim, S., Diller, E.

Proceedings of the IEEE, 103(2):205-224, IEEE, March 2015 (article)

Abstract
Untethered robots miniaturized to the length scale of millimeter and below attract growing attention for the prospect of transforming many aspects of health care and bioengineering. As the robot size goes down to the order of a single cell, previously inaccessible body sites would become available for high-resolution in situ and in vivo manipulations. This unprecedented direct access would enable an extensive range of minimally invasive medical operations. Here, we provide a comprehensive review of the current advances in biomedical untethered mobile milli/microrobots. We put a special emphasis on the potential impacts of biomedical microrobots in the near future. Finally, we discuss the existing challenges and emerging concepts associated with designing such a miniaturized robot for operation inside a biological environment for biomedical applications.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Collective 3D Migration of Embryonic Epithelial Mesenchymal Composite Tissues are Regulated by Surface Topology

Song, J., Shawky, J., Kim, Y. T., Hazar, M., Sitti, M., LeDuc, P. R., Davidson, L. A.

Biophysical Journal, 108(2):455a, Elsevier, January 2015 (article)

Abstract
Cells in tissues encounter a range of physical cues as they migrate. Probing single cell and collective migratory responses to physically defined three-dimensional (3D) microenvironments and the factors that modulate those responses are critical to understanding how tissue migration is regulated during development, regeneration, and cancer. One key physical factor that regulates cell migration is topology. Most studies on surface topology and cell mechanics have been carried out with single migratory cells, yet little is known about the spreading and motility response of 3D complex multicellular tissues to topological cues. Here, we examine the behaviors of microsurgically isolated tissue explants composed of epithelial and mesenchymal cell layers from naturally 3D organized embryos of the aquatic frog Xenopus laevis to complex topological cues. We control topology using fabricated micropost arrays (MPAs) with different diameters (e.g., different spacing gaps) and investigate the collective 3D migration of these multicellular systems in these MPAs. Our topographical controlled approach for cellular application enables us to achieve a high degree of control over micropost positioning and geometry via simple, accurate, and repeatable microfabrication processes. We find that the topology regulates both collective and individual cell migration and that dense MPAs reduce but do not eliminate tissue spreading. By modulating cell size through the cell cycle inhibitor Mitomycin C or the spacing within MPAs we discover a role for topology in disrupting collective enhancement of cell migration. We find 3D topological cues can direct both single cell motility and tissue spreading, altering tissue-scale processes that enable efficient conversion of single cell motility into collective movement.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Three-dimensional heterogeneous assembly of coded microgels using an untethered mobile microgripper

Chung, S. E., Dong, X., Sitti, M.

Lab on a Chip, 15(7):1667-1676, Royal Society of Chemistry, January 2015 (article)

Abstract
Three-dimensional (3D) heterogeneous assembly of coded microgels in enclosed aquatic environments is demonstrated using a remotely actuated and controlled magnetic microgripper by a customized electromagnetic coil system. The microgripper uses different ‘stick–slip’ and ‘rolling’ locomotion in 2D and also levitation in 3D by magnetic gradient-based pulling force. This enables the microrobot to precisely manipulate each microgel by controlling its position and orientation in all x–y–z directions. Our microrobotic assembly method broke the barrier of limitation on the number of assembled microgel layers, because it enabled precise 3D levitation of the microgripper. We used the gripper to assemble microgels that had been coded with different colours and shapes onto prefabricated polymeric microposts. This eliminates the need for extra secondary cross-linking to fix the final construct. We demonstrated assembly of microgels on a single micropost up to ten layers. By increasing the number and changing the distribution of the posts, complex heterogeneous microsystems were possible to construct in 3D.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Integrating mechanism synthesis and topological optimization technique for stiffness-oriented design of a three degrees-of-freedom flexure-based parallel mechanism

Lum, G. Z., Teo, T. J., Yang, G., Yeo, S. H., Sitti, M.

Precision Engineering, 39, pages: 125-133, Elsevier, January 2015 (article)

Abstract
This paper introduces a new design approach to synthesize multiple degrees-of-freedom (DOF) flexure-based parallel mechanism (FPM). Termed as an integrated design approach, it is a systematic design methodology, which integrates both classical mechanism synthesis and modern topology optimization technique, to deliver an optimized multi-DOF FPM. This design approach is separated into two levels. At sub-chain level, a novel topology optimization technique, which uses the classical linkage mechanisms as DNA seeds, is used to synthesize the compliant joints or limbs. At configuration level, the optimal compliant joints are used to form the parallel limbs of the multi-DOF FPM and another stage of optimization was conducted to determine the optimal space distribution between these compliant joints so as to generate a multi-DOF FPM with optimized stiffness characteristic. In this paper, the design of a 3-DOF planar motion FPM was used to demonstrate the effectiveness and accuracy of this proposed design approach.

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DOI [BibTex]


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Actively controlled fibrillar friction surfaces

Marvi, H, Han, Y, Sitti, M

Applied Physics Letters, 106(5):051602, AIP Publishing, January 2015 (article)

Abstract
In this letter, we propose a technique by which we can actively adjust frictional properties of elastic fibrillar structures in different directions. Using a mesh attached to a two degree-of-freedom linear stage, we controlled the active length and the tilt angle of fibers, independently. Thus, we were able to achieve desired levels of friction forces in different directions and significantly improve passive friction anisotropies observed in the same fiber arrays. The proposed technique would allow us to readily control the friction anisotropy and the friction magnitude of fibrillar structures in any planar direction.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Interpretation of Linear Solvers

Hennig, P.

SIAM Journal on Optimization, 25(1):234-260, 2015 (article)

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Web PDF link (url) DOI [BibTex]

Web PDF link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Probabilistic numerics and uncertainty in computations

Hennig, P., Osborne, M. A., Girolami, M.

Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 471(2179), 2015 (article)

Abstract
We deliver a call to arms for probabilistic numerical methods: algorithms for numerical tasks, including linear algebra, integration, optimization and solving differential equations, that return uncertainties in their calculations. Such uncertainties, arising from the loss of precision induced by numerical calculation with limited time or hardware, are important for much contemporary science and industry. Within applications such as climate science and astrophysics, the need to make decisions on the basis of computations with large and complex data have led to a renewed focus on the management of numerical uncertainty. We describe how several seminal classic numerical methods can be interpreted naturally as probabilistic inference. We then show that the probabilistic view suggests new algorithms that can flexibly be adapted to suit application specifics, while delivering improved empirical performance. We provide concrete illustrations of the benefits of probabilistic numeric algorithms on real scientific problems from astrometry and astronomical imaging, while highlighting open problems with these new algorithms. Finally, we describe how probabilistic numerical methods provide a coherent framework for identifying the uncertainty in calculations performed with a combination of numerical algorithms (e.g. both numerical optimizers and differential equation solvers), potentially allowing the diagnosis (and control) of error sources in computations.

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PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Kinematic and gait similarities between crawling human infants and other quadruped mammals

Righetti, L., Nylen, A., Rosander, K., Ijspeert, A.

Frontiers in Neurology, 6(17), February 2015 (article)

Abstract
Crawling on hands and knees is an early pattern of human infant locomotion, which offers an interesting way of studying quadrupedalism in one of its simplest form. We investigate how crawling human infants compare to other quadruped mammals, especially primates. We present quantitative data on both the gait and kinematics of seven 10-month-old crawling infants. Body movements were measured with an optoelectronic system giving precise data on 3-dimensional limb movements. Crawling on hands and knees is very similar to the locomotion of non-human primates in terms of the quite protracted arm at touch-down, the coordination between the spine movements in the lateral plane and the limbs, the relatively extended limbs during locomotion and the strong correlation between stance duration and speed of locomotion. However, there are important differences compared to primates, such as the choice of a lateral-sequence walking gait, which is similar to most non-primate mammals and the relatively stiff elbows during stance as opposed to the quite compliant gaits of primates. These finding raise the question of the role of both the mechanical structure of the body and neural control on the determination of these characteristics.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]